The Future is Here, But Are You in It? - Aftermarket
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The Future is Here, But Are You in It?

By Ron Slee

Article Date: 06-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Technology is now “helping” technicians, and factory-authorized dealers should be leading the charge in bench-marking efficiencies.

I recently viewed a show on You Tube from BMW showing a technician replacing a radiator core. Nothing very fancy, right? Well, this technician walks up to his tool box and puts on a pair of glasses. Makes adjustments and pushes on them to start. He is standing in front of the car and an image is transposed over the engine compartment and shows in color the items to be worked on and then tells him vocally what to do. When he has completed a step he says “next step.” What a wonderful use of technology. As our world becomes more of a remove-and-install of components and things, the technical skills needed from mechanics is reduced; at least for some categories of the work.
 
One of my many complaints about the operations of a service department, that many of you have read over the years, is that we have a peanut butter mentality to the work. We charge the same price no matter the skills of the technician, nor the tooling required, nor the degree of difficulty of the work – we spread it equally, like peanut butter. We don’t schedule labor but we do give completion dates to customers for much of the work. How do we do that when we have variable skills required for the work and variable skills available from the technicians? Peanut butter. This is why we rarely meet completion dates and have lost so much of the available labor market.
 
We now have new technological tools and new uses of long-standing technology. Who will buy this technology and have it available for use? Hopefully it will be the authorized dealers and distributors.
 
In another direction, we also have technology roaring to our assistance but it isn’t loud enough yet, as I don’t see many dealers rushing to implement it. It seems that the rental industry has leapt ahead of the authorized distributors in how they treat their technicians. How so?
 
Well, the technician can stay in the bay and look up on a computer terminal and determine their parts requirement. Okay, some of you are saying that you already do that. Now, let’s start from the make, model and serial number of the machine they are working on and automatically go to a library of schematics and select the appropriate one that will allow them to select the parts they need. Do you do that, too? Oh, and they do that with a touchscreen. You do that, too? Well, then the parts list, which is in a “shopping cart,” is processed as an order in their computer system and prints a pick ticket in the warehouse, their store, so that the parts group can pick the part and deliver it to the technician in their bay. Do you do all that too? I didn’t think so.
 
It is long past time that we start putting technology to better use. These two illustrations are examples of where and how we can improve labor efficiency on the job. My estimate is that this will increase in labor efficiency by 30 to 60 minutes each day for each technician. Yes, that is right. The time that a technician spends each day walking back and forth to the parts department wastes that much time every day. If you think I am wrong, go watch the floor for a while. In the field it is worse because the technician has to drive to get the parts. And all that time the technician is on the clock.
 
I think we better get serious, and what better time than now?
 
The management of a service operation is aimed at two specific major elements: labor efficiency and quality. If we can keep the technicians in the bay where the work is done we can improve their labor efficiency. If we can deliver current accurate schematics from which they can order the necessary parts we will improve the quality.
 
Are you ready for that? This is not a question of if you will use technology effectively; it is a question of when. This is coming to us and we don’t have any control over it. In this market and these conditions I believe the sooner that we implement these technologies the better. The choice is yours.

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